Scones are made like biscuits, their delicate and flaky texture the result of carefully cutting in the butter and of using a light hand to mix in the other ingredients. Usually we make these with the traditional Zante currants, although we vary the recipe sometimes in spring and summer with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, or even peaches. This same dough makes a great cobbler topping or biscuit for berry shortcakes.
Kitchen Notes: Zante currants, also sometimes labeled “black currants” or “dried currants,” are dried tiny Black Corinth grapes that were first cultivated on the Greek island of Zante, thus their name. If you decide to make the scones with fresh berries, such as raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries, instead of the currants, start with about 1/2 pint (5 ounces/140 g) berries. Hull and coarsely chop the strawberries but leave the raspberries or blueberries whole. Freeze the whole berries or berry pieces in a single layer on a small baking sheet, and then add them to the dough after you add the buttermilk. You must be careful not to mash the berries into the dough, or you will color it with their juice.
3/4 cup/3 1/2 oz/100 g Zante currants
4 3/4 cups/24 oz/680 g All-purpose flour
1 tbsp/15 ml Baking powder
3/4 tsp/3 3/4 ml Baking soda
1/2 cup/3 1/2 oz/100 g Granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp/6 1/4 ml Salt
1 cup + 1 tbsp/9 oz/255 g Unsalted butter, very cold
1 1/2 cups/12 oz/375 ml Buttermilk
1 tsp/5 ml Lemon zest, grated
About 3 tbsp/45 ml Unsalted butter, melted
Large crystal sugar or granulated sugar for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Butter a baking sheet.
2. To make the dough, first combine the currants with warm water to cover in a small bowl and set aside for about 10 minutes until the currants are plumped. Drain well.
3. While the currants are plumping, sift the flour, baking powder, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl if making by hand, or into the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the sugar and salt and stir to mix with a wooden spoon. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and scatter the cubes over the dry ingredients. If you are mixing by hand, use a pastry blender or 2 table knives to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. If you are using the mixer, pulse on and off so that you don’t break down the butter too much. You want to end up with a coarse mixture with pea-sized lumps of butter visible.
4. Add the buttermilk all at once along with the lemon zest and currants and mix gently with the wooden spoon by hand or on low speed if using the mixer. Continue to mix just until you have a dough that holds together. If the mixture seems dry, add a little more buttermilk. You still want to see some of the butter pieces at this point, which will add to the flakiness of the scones once they are baked.
5. Dust your work surface with flour, and turn the dough out onto it. Using your hands, pat the dough into a rectangle about 18 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 1 1/2 inches thick. Brush the top with the melted butter and then sprinkle with the sugar. Using a chef’s knife, cut the dough into 12 triangles. Transfer the triangles to the prepared baking sheet.
6. Bake the scones until the tops are lightly browned, 25 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
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